August 9, 2001
The Bush Ranch
THE PRESIDENT: "Good evening. I appreciate
you giving me a few minutes of your time tonight so I can
discuss with you a complex and difficult issue, an issue
that is one of the most profound of our time.
The issue of research involving stem cells derived from
human embryos is increasingly the subject of a national
debate and dinner table discussions. The issue is confronted
every day in laboratories as scientists ponder the ethical
ramifications of their work. It is agonized over by parents
and many couples as they try to have children, or to save
children already born.
The issue is debated within the church, with people of
different faiths, even many of the same faith coming to
different conclusions. Many people are finding
that the more they know about stem cell research, the less
certain they are about the right ethical and moral conclusions.
My administration must decide whether to allow federal
funds, your tax dollars, to be used for scientific research
on stem cells derived from human embryos. A large number
of these embryos already exist. They are the product of
a process called in vitro fertilization, which helps so
many couples conceive children. When doctors match sperm
and egg to create life outside the womb, they usually produce
more embryos than are planted in the mother. Once a couple
successfully has children, or if they are unsuccessful,
the additional embryos remain frozen in laboratories.
Some will not survive during long storage; others are destroyed.
A number have been donated to science and used to create
privately funded stem cell lines. And a few have been implanted
in an adoptive mother and born, and are today healthy children.
Based on preliminary work that has been privately funded,
scientists believe further research using stem cells offers
great promise that could help improve the lives of those
who suffer from many terrible diseases -- from juvenile
diabetes to Alzheimer's, from Parkinson's to spinal cord
injuries. And while scientists admit they are not yet certain,
they believe stem cells derived from embryos have unique
You should also know that stem cells can be derived from
sources other than embryos -- from adult cells, from umbilical
cords that are discarded after babies are born, from human
placenta. And many scientists feel research on these type
of stem cells is also promising. Many patients suffering
from a range of diseases are already being helped with treatments
developed from adult stem cells.
However, most scientists, at least today, believe that
research on embryonic stem cells offer the most promise
because these cells have the potential to develop in all
of the tissues in the body.
Scientists further believe that rapid progress in this
research will come only with federal funds. Federal dollars
help attract the best and brightest scientists. They ensure
new discoveries are widely shared at the largest number
of research facilities and that the research is directed
toward the greatest public good.
The United States has a long and proud record of leading
the world toward advances in science and medicine that improve
human life. And the United States has a long and proud record
of upholding the highest standards of ethics as we expand
the limits of science and knowledge. Research on embryonic
stem cells raises profound ethical questions, because extracting
the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus destroys its
potential for life. Like a snowflake, each of these embryos
is unique, with the unique genetic potential of an individual
As I thought through this issue, I kept returning to two
fundamental questions: First, are these frozen embryos human
life, and therefore, something precious to be protected?
And second, if they're going to be destroyed anyway, shouldn't
they be used for a greater good, for research that has the
potential to save and improve other lives?
I've asked those questions and others of scientists, scholars,
bioethicists, religious leaders, doctors, researchers, members
of Congress, my Cabinet, and my friends. I have read heartfelt
letters from many Americans. I have given this issue a great
deal of thought, prayer and considerable reflection. And
I have found widespread disagreement.
On the first issue, are these embryos human life -- well,
one researcher told me he believes this five-day-old cluster
of cells is not an embryo, not yet an individual, but a
pre-embryo. He argued that it has the potential for life,
but it is not a life because it cannot develop on its own.
An ethicist dismissed that as a callous attempt at rationalization.
Make no mistake, he told me, that cluster of cells is the
same way you and I, and all the rest of us, started our
lives. One goes with a heavy heart if we use these, he said,
because we are dealing with the seeds of the next generation.
And to the other crucial question, if these are going to
be destroyed anyway, why not use them for good purpose --
I also found different answers. Many argue these embryos
are byproducts of a process that helps create life, and
we should allow couples to donate them to science so they
can be used for good purpose instead of wasting their potential. Others
will argue there's no such thing as excess life, and the
fact that a living being is going to die does not justify
experimenting on it or exploiting it as a natural resource.
At its core, this issue forces us to confront fundamental
questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science.
It lies at a difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the
need to protect life in all its phases with the prospect
of saving and improving life in all its stages.
As the discoveries of modern science create tremendous
hope, they also lay vast ethical mine fields. As the genius
of science extends the horizons of what we can do, we increasingly
confront complex questions about what we should do. We have
arrived at that brave new world that seemed so distant in
1932, when Aldous Huxley wrote about human beings created
in test tubes in what he called a "hatchery."
In recent weeks, we learned that scientists have created
human embryos in test tubes solely to experiment on them.
This is deeply troubling, and a warning sign that should
prompt all of us to think through these issues very carefully.
Embryonic stem cell research is at the leading edge of
a series of moral hazards. The initial stem cell researcher
was at first reluctant to begin his research, fearing it
might be used for human cloning. Scientists have already
cloned a sheep. Researchers are telling us the next step
could be to clone human beings to create individual designer
stem cells, essentially to grow another you, to be available
in case you need another heart or lung or liver.
I strongly oppose human cloning, as do most Americans.
We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare
body parts, or creating life for our convenience. And while
we must devote enormous energy to conquering disease, it
is equally important that we pay attention to the moral
concerns raised by the new frontier of human embryo stem
cell research. Even the most noble ends do not justify any
My position on these issues is shaped by deeply held beliefs.
I'm a strong supporter of science and technology, and believe
they have the potential for incredible good -- to improve
lives, to save life, to conquer disease. Research offers
hope that millions of our loved ones may be cured of a disease
and rid of their suffering. I have friends whose children
suffer from juvenile diabetes. Nancy Reagan has written
me about President Reagan's struggle with Alzheimer's. My
own family has confronted the tragedy of childhood leukemia.
And, like all Americans, I have great hope for cures.
I also believe human life is a sacred gift from our Creator.
I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe
as your President I have an important obligation to foster
and encourage respect for life in America and throughout
the world. And while we're all hopeful about the potential
of this research, no one can be certain that the science
will live up to the hope it has generated.
Eight years ago, scientists believed fetal tissue research
offered great hope for cures and treatments -- yet, the
progress to date has not lived up to its initial expectations.
Embryonic stem cell research offers both great promise and
great peril. So I have decided we must proceed with great
As a result of private research, more than 60 genetically
diverse stem cell lines already exist. They were created
from embryos that have already been destroyed, and they
have the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely,
creating ongoing opportunities for research. I have concluded
that we should allow federal funds to be used for research
on these existing stem cell lines, where the life and death
decision has already been made.
Leading scientists tell me research on these 60 lines has
great promise that could lead to breakthrough therapies
and cures. This allows us to explore the promise and potential
of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral
line, by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction
or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have
at least the potential for life.
I also believe that great scientific progress can be made
through aggressive federal funding of research on umbilical
cord placenta, adult and animal stem cells which do not
involve the same moral dilemma. This year, your government
will spend $250 million on this important research.
I will also name a President's council to monitor stem
cell research, to recommend appropriate guidelines and regulations,
and to consider all of the medical and ethical ramifications
of biomedical innovation. This council will consist of leading
scientists, doctors, ethicists, lawyers, theologians and
others, and will be chaired by Dr. Leon Kass, a leading
biomedical ethicist from the University of Chicago.
This council will keep us apprised of new developments
and give our nation a forum to continue to discuss and evaluate
these important issues. As we go forward, I hope we will
always be guided by both intellect and heart, by both our
capabilities and our conscience.
I have made this decision with great care, and I pray it
is the right one.
Thank you for listening. Good night, and God bless America."
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